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Matharu’s Second-Half Spark Lifts MSU To 68-59 Win At LSU

BATON ROUGE, La. – Aliyah Matharu scored all 19 of her points in the second half to spark Mississippi State to a 68-59 victory on the road at LSU on Thursday night.

Facing an eight-point deficit at halftime, Matharu and the Bulldogs (10-7, 5-6 SEC) picked things up in the second half. The SEC Sixth Woman of the Year candidate was 5-of-7 from the floor, a perfect 4-for-4 from beyond the arc and 5-of-6 from the charity stripe after halftime. Along with matching her season high in scoring, Matharu added three rebounds, three steals and one assists in one of her best all-around performances since arriving in Starkville.

Mississippi State’s defense turned out to be the difference in the game. After the Tigers (8-12, 6-8 SEC) shot 54 percent from the field in the second stanza, the Bulldogs held LSU to just eight points and 23 percent shooting in the third quarter. MSU forced 12 of its 19 turnovers in the second half to shut down the Tiger offense. For the game, the Bulldogs finished with 10 steals and five blocks.

“I do think it was our defensive effort,” said head coach Nikki McCray-Penson. “LSU is a team that makes you play really ugly. Their matchup zone is man and zone. They’re a scrappy team. Anybody who comes in here, it is a tough place to play. They battle with the top teams in this league. For us, we wanted to limit them to one shot each possession. We didn’t do a good job of that, but we did it when we needed to. We had to control the paint. They have one of the best players in the league in Khalya Pointer. She can get downhill and get by anybody. The second half really continued to challenge our team defensively. I told my team that they are all capable defenders. We’ve proved it. We said we wanted to come out and hold this team to under eight to 10 points in the third quarter, and we did that. I challenged Aliyah. I said, ‘you’re a better defender than what you’ve shown. You have to guard one of the best players in this league. You have to lock her up.’ Tonight, she was more focused on that and her offense just came. Sometimes when we want to score so much, it takes away from our defense. If we can focus on other things, then everything else will come. I thought that tonight she was just solid on both ends. She let the offense come to her. She was big for us.”

State’s defense got the team back into the game, but it was the squad’s shooting at the free throw line that put the game away. The Bulldogs had their best performance from the charity stripe all season, going 13-of-14 from the line and knocking down nine of their 10 attempts in the fourth quarter. When it wasn’t drawing fouls, MSU was attacking the paint offensively, where it won the scoring battle 38-22.

Myah Taylor had another strong outing on both ends of the floor, recording 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting, six rebounds, four assists and four steals. Jessika Carter also stepped up big for State, posting 14 points, nine boards, two blocks, two steals and one assist. When she was in the game, the Bulldogs were plus 25 in scoring, the highest margin on the team.

Mississippi State’s defense was solid early in the game, holding the Tigers to just 28 percent shooting in the first quarter. Taylor had four points in the period, but LSU took an early 14-12 lead.

The Bulldogs had a hot start to the second stanza by knocking down three of their first four baskets to take the lead, but a cold spell during the final five minutes of the quarter allowed LSU to take a 33-25 advantage into halftime. State connected on just one of its final nine shots in the half, while the Tigers converted on seven of their final 10 attempts. Taylor led MSU in scoring for the half, recording nine points on 4-of-5 shooting to go along with three rebounds, two steals and one assist.

A pair of threes by Matharu to begin the third quarter fueled a 12-5 run that pulled State back within one possession of the Tigers. The run forced LSU to call a timeout, but Mississippi State wouldn’t cool off. The Bulldogs would end the period on a 22-3 run to swing the momentum of the game in their favor, taking a 50-41 lead into the final frame. MSU’s defense forced eight turnovers in the stanza and held the Tigers to just 23 percent shooting. Matharu dropped 12 points to fuel the offense.

LSU wouldn’t go away quietly, fighting back to make it a four-point game with 2:08 remaining in the game. Along with a pair of late baskets, Mississippi State iced the game by going 6-of-6 from the charity stripe in the final 40 seconds to end the matchup on a 10-5 run. Matharu added eight points in the stanza to cap her strong second-half performance. MSU shot 43 percent from the field for the contest.

Up next, Mississippi State will conclude the regular season with a matchup against Missouri at Humphrey Coliseum on Sunday at 3 p.m. The game will be televised on SEC Network and streamed on the MSU Radio Network.

For the most up-to-date information on the Bulldogs, follow MSU women’s basketball on Twitter, like them on Facebook and join them on Instagram by searching for “HailStateWBK.”